“In a word, it was fabulous,” Linell Dozier said when describing the first time she picked out a wig at the American Cancer Society.
The American Cancer Society is one resource that provides free wigs for adult women who are suffering from hair loss due to cancer treatments. Women can visit the American Caner Society’s office that has a wig shop, designed to resemble a salon, where they can try on wigs in a variety of different colors and styles.
The shop also offers both synthetic wigs and wigs made with real hair, as well as a catalog full of wigs if they can’t find a style they like.
Hearing of the wig program, Linell decided she’d like to try one on after she was diagnosed with angiosarcoma in January 2017.
“I found out that I was going to have to shave my head so that my doctor could see my cancer, so I had pretty short hair when I went in there,” she said.
Accompanied by her friend Sharon, Linell was able to find a wig that perfectly matched the color of her hair she had at the time.
“We giggled and laughed and went, ‘Oh my gosh this fun!’ You know all that little girl type stuff,” Linell said. “It was really silly and to have my girlfriend there was really special and it really made a lot of difference too, because she was like, ‘Aww this is it, this is perfect!’ So you know you felt secure in the decision that you were making because there’s several wigs to try. (I) tried on several of them and when we tried on that one and it was like, ‘Yes, this is it, this is the one.’”
“It was amazing,” Linell added. “It seemed like it went really, really fast for me, it was a really overwhelming experience at the time and I just felt thankful that I found something that matched my hair. I can wear it all the time and I do. I have more than one at this point but the very first one came from there and came with a lot of love and support; it was just a really good experience for me.”
Ashley Patterson, senior community development manager for the North Region American Cancer Society, said when someone’s at the Je
fferson City based office and they bring them back to the room, they are shocked by the number of “offerings” because they try to keep a pretty wide variety.
“Almost every time somebody says, ‘I didn’t think you’d have anything I’d like’ and then they usually walk out wearing the wig,” she said. “They look great so that’s always a good feeling.”
“We do have quite a few people in town that can also style wigs that are really good,” Ashley added. “A gentleman named Jim at Super Hair is amazing at styling wigs and he does a lot of them.”
Jim Morris said they take the hair and give them what they’re looking for and better.
“Styling may not be necessary throughout the entire process, but at the beginning it’s all about building that confidence,” he said.
The American Cancer Society wig shop also offers a variety of head bands, head coverings, port pillows and other items that help women.
“We make sure to try and send everybody home with a wig that they really like, that’s flattering for them, a couple of different head coverings, a port pillow, a little bit of everything,” Ashley said.
“And there is no restriction, like you don’t have to be from Jeff City or Cole County. A lot of … people (from surrounding counties) will be in town and do their treatment, and they’ll swing on over to get a head covering.”
Most crocheted or sown items are donated by groups like Work of Our Hands who meet at First Christian Church in Tipton. The group started in the fall of 2010 and meet on the first and third Thursdays of each month from September through May at the church’s fellowship hall, and the group is open to anyone who would like to participate.
“We make crocheted chemo caps, heart pillows that go under the arm for the benefit of breast cancer survivors who have had mastectomies, and lap robes,” said Nancy Miller, who is a member of Work of Our Hands. “We also make a fleece, tied lap robe so that anyone who doesn’t crochet, knit or sew can be a part of our group. The ladies who come to Work of Our Hands provide their own supplies, including fabric, yarn, etc. However, occasionally someone gives us supplies to use.”
Nancy added they don’t just make things for cancer survivors.
“Notice I say survivors and not patients,” she added. “We were reminded when we started this venture that we want to be part of the hope for a cure, and so we don’t refer to our recipients as patients. … We encourage everyone to come and work on any project they want to. They don’t have to make everything for cancer survivors. Even so, we are happy that we have been able to donate more than 3,000 handmade items, mostly to Ellis Fischel, some to American Cancer Society in Jefferson City and several to individuals.”
Ashley believes the most dramatic thing is the wig because it can change a woman’s appearance drastically, but she also said lots of people call for the port pillows.
“Because it’s something small that you don’t think you might need, but then as you’re driving and you have that seat belt go across you and realize, ‘Yeah that is painful,’” she said, “So I’ve had a couple people call and say, ‘Can I come and get another one for my other car,’ and we’re like absolutely.”
“This is truly something that impacts our community, so it’s local resource,” Ashley added. “Lots of times the American Cancer Society can seem really big and it’s national organization and people really don’t understand the impact locally and this is just a really good example of, my sister or my aunt might have come in or might need to come in at some point to use one of these resources.
That can be kind of eye opening to a lot of people and they’ll be like ‘Oh OK, so there are things that are happening right here in Jefferson City that are supporting our local survivors.’ That’s one thing we try to make sure everybody knows.”
The American Cancer Society office is located at 2409 Hyde Park Rd. Walk-ins are welcome but calling ahead is preferred. For more information about the wig program, call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345.